Doers Vs. Hearers

A clergy friend shared a screen shot of her church’s FaceBook post announcing a free breakfast at her church. It was a picture of a fried egg sitting on a piece of toast. The invitation to join was prominent in the graphic. Did I mention that this was an invitation to a free breakfast?

The screenshot included the first comment someone made. They offered their version of constructive criticism (I suppose). The comment read, “I do not like that egg.”

Did I mention that this was for a free breakfast?

Why people need to spit in someone’s cornflakes is beyond me. We have all forgotten the advice of our grandmothers, who taught us that if we don’t have something nice to say, perhaps we should simply be quiet.

The world feels entitled to express every kind of opinion right now, and yes, I am aware that what I just wrote is my opinion. So let’s talk about God’s opinion, okay?

Our passage from James this morning pretty much says it all:

James 1 (Common English Bible)

Welcoming and doing the word

19 Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry.20 This is because an angry person doesn’t produce God’s righteousness. 21 Therefore, with humility, set aside all moral filth and the growth of wickedness, and welcome the word planted deep inside you—the very word that is able to save you.

Quick to listen.

Slow to speak.

Slow to grow angry.

We would do well to heed these words, friends. God has planted his word deep inside us. If our speech goes against that word, perhaps we should just keep our opinions to ourselves and hold our tongues.

22 You must be doers of the word and not only hearers who mislead themselves. 23 Those who hear but don’t do the word are like those who look at their faces in a mirror. 24 They look at themselves, walk away, and immediately forget what they were like. 25 But there are those who study the perfect law, the law of freedom, and continue to do it. They don’t listen and then forget, but they put it into practice in their lives. They will be blessed in whatever they do.

That’s quite the assignment, isn’t it? If you have learned that God is love, then you must love ALL his people. If you have learned from his word that everyone has sinned and fallen short of his glory, then you must be patient with others who sin….just as God is patient with your sin. If God’s word instructs us to not judge others, then perhaps we should let God be the judge and leave the condemning words to Jesus.

26 If those who claim devotion to God don’t control what they say, they mislead themselves. Their devotion is worthless.27 True devotion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their difficulties and to keep the world from contaminating us.

This is great food for thought for us today. If we claim devotion to God, we MUST control what we say. We need to be doers of the incredible and radical word of God, not just readers/hearers of it. True devotion is proved when we care for the marginalized. True devotion is pure and faultless. True devotion practices what it preaches.True devotion is the alignment of our spoken (and posted) words to the will and purpose of God.

Where is God calling you to do his word today?

Welcome the Word by Michelle Robertson

Going to Bed Angry

I always loved those moments in church when someone would raise their hand and announce that they were celebrating a wedding anniversary. What a joy! When the number of years was especially impressive, say forty, fifty, and even sixty, I would ask them to share their secret to success. A couple of times the husband would joke that he learned early in their marriage to say “yes, dear.” But more often than not, the answer had something to do with “not letting the sun go down on their anger.” One wife told me that she and her husband believed in that so much, they would stay awake all night to resolve their argument rather than go to bed angry. That is excellent relationship advice from people who know!

We believe that scripture has warned us about going to bed when you’re angry with your bedmate, and so we assume this scripture relates to those kinds of relationships. But that is not the case. Read carefully and see if you can determine what exactly is said about not going to bed angry:

Ephesians 4 (The Message)

25 What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.

26-27 Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.

Did you notice that it says nothing about the person with whom you share a bed? No, indeed. This is how you are supposed to treat your NEIGHBOR.

That’s a bit startling, isn’t it? So what do you suppose would happen if we practiced this scripture with integrity? What would the world look like if everyone resolved their issues with their neighbors before bedtime? Some of us wouldn’t sleep for weeks.

Paul is right about needing to clear the air when there is a dispute. The devil absolutely is LOOKING for footholds in your life, and unresolved anger is a favorite.

Also notice that anger is not the villain here. Paul encourages us to go ahead and be angry. It is okay to be angry, but it is never okay to use it as fuel for revenge. Feeling anger is a natural response to conflict, but stuffing down your anger is far from healthy. Better to go to your neighbor and tell the truth. Get it out. Stop pretending. Open a mature dialogue. BUT DON’T STAY ANGRY.

And then he goes on to address other issues in the neighborhood:

28 Did you use to make ends meet by stealing? Well, no more! Get an honest job so that you can help others who can’t work.

29 Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.

This is especially important when you are talking to that neighbor about what has made you angry. Say ONLY what helps, and watch the way you talk.

30 Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted.

And the final word on the subject is a great summation of how to live in harmony with your neighbor:

31-32 Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.

Are you caught in a situation where someone keeps making you mad? Pray, pray, pray, and then go gently into a conversation with them. Be honest, use helpful words, lay down your anger, avoid backbiting and profane talk, and be ready to forgive, even if you aren’t received well.

If you do this, you may sleep better tonight.

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down by Bonnie Bennett

Slow to Anger

Are you slow or quick to anger? Someone I know is VERY quick to anger. Before the offense is even formed in her mind, the explosion is coming out of her mouth. Another person I know is slow to anger. He is thoughtful, measured, and considerate of everyone’s opinions before he responds. Luckily, these two people are married to each other. Isn’t God funny that way?

The thing I appreciate about the one who is quick to anger is that once the explosion is over, she moves on. I have never known her to hold a grudge. There’s something to be said for that.

But those who are slow to anger are more like God himself. And thank God that God is slooooow to anger!! Otherwise we would have all been smote by now…and some of us would have been smote several times over. Deservedly.

That’s what is amazing about God. He never gives us what we deserve, thanks be to God.

Psalm 145 (New Revised Standard Version)

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
    and his compassion is over all that he has made.

Such a wonderful word of reassurance to us today. There probably isn’t one of us who doesn’t need his steadfast love and compassion right about now. Part of the challenge of living through this pandemic is HOLDING OUR TEMPER. If you’re like me, you are feeling especially fragile right now and everything is annoying. My irritation meter is set on High and it is taking all of my self control to not respond to things around me. Do you feel that way?

10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
    and all your faithful shall bless you.
11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom,
    and tell of your power,
12 to make known to all people your  mighty deeds,
    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

But the psalmist sets out a bigger picture.

The Lord is faithful in all his words,
    and gracious in all his deeds.
14 The Lord upholds all who are falling,
    and raises up all who are bowed down.

The Lord indeed raises up all who are bowed down under the pressures of life. And he holds us up as we are falling. Take a moment to feel his arms around you, supporting you in your stumbles and struggles.

Sometime today, this week, or maybe in the next five minutes, you will feel annoyed. That annoyance will want to express itself in anger.

Don’t let it. Take a deep breath, walk away, and remember how God deals with YOU.

Slow to anger…it’s a God-thing.

The Glorious Splendor of God’s Kingdom by Wende Pritchard